The Descendants

The Descendants

Carrying love and legacy forward

English (A)
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Robert Forster
Director: Alexander Payne

Director Alexander Payne (About Schimdt, Sideways) returns after a seven-year sabbatical with The Descendants. As is the case with most of his films, this too revolves around adultery in marriage and relationships. Payne fuses satire into a tragic comedy, starring George Clooney as Matt King, a successful lawyer of Hawaiian royal origins and who owns a virgin stretch of 25,000 acres of land. Matt’s wife, Elizabeth is in a coma after a boating accident. Matt, the sole trustee of a family trust has to sell off the land if only to oversee the wellbeing of his not-so-rich relatives.

Never a great parent to his two daughters - youngest Scottie (Miller), who needs attention and 17-year-old Alexandra (Woodley), who has a drinking problem - Matt decides to pull Alex out of school so she can look after her comatose mother. He then learns that Alex’s problem began after discovering her mother’s affair. Matt decides to confront his wife’s lover and even tries to get him say goodbye to his wife in the hospital.
Thus begins a journey as Matt learns more about his daughters, accompanied by Alex’s not-so-smart boyfriend, Sid (Krause).

The Descendants succeeds on account of outstanding acting by Clooney, ably supported by Miller and Woodley. It excels in showing how botched family relationships can be. The film has its moments, such as when Matt meets Brian (his wife’s lover) and Matt’s reaction when Scottie wants to view an adult channel. It has its share of profanities and oddities too.

The film seems like an advertisement for Hawaiian tourism, from the opening credits, that feature Hawaiian art and type to Matt’s Aloha-shirted cousins, locales, background music, animated maps as the family goes island hopping, and yes, Matt’s Hawaii chappals, everything is unmistakably Hawaiian.

The Descendants is one of the best films of 2011. While Payne has done a good job, thanks to his adaptation of a novel by the same name, the climax can seem preachy.

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